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Mental Health and Academic Achievement – Let’s Face It School and Mental illness are Inseparable

Mental Health and Academic Achievement

Mental health and academic achievement are absolutely connected. Let’s just face this face head on! 

How can you possibly achieve great things when your life is spinning out of control?

We’ve all seen it before. Mental health problems touch us all at some point or another, whether they be serious long-term battles or temporary brushes with emotionality.

In my experience, we vastly underestimate the far-reaching implications of mental health on every aspect of our lives from academic achievement to interpersonal relationships.

Mental Health and Academic Achievement: More Children Than You Know have Issues

1 out of every 5 children has mental health issues! Wow, with numbers like this how come so many people slip through the cracks? 

The sad truth is educators often miss the signs.  

This is one of the main reasons who why I founded the Holistic Neurodevelopment Program.  Our newest venture was launched to address this grave issue. It’s one of the fastest and easiest ways to help our communities grow and prosper. 

The thing is: 

schools vary greatly in the degree to which they are willing and able to accommodate mental health issues. Some are doing a lot and training teachers on how to recognize warning signs and talk to families. And others are doing very little to understand the needs of students and how to work with families, said Gruttadaro.  

One out of five children have mental illness, and schools often don’t help, PBS.Org


As a country, we need to come up with some sort of unified approach to take accountability for the legions of young people facing bleak futures because of lack of intervention. 

Monumental societal change can and will happen if we explore the roots of how mental illness affects school performance. 

You may find this hard to believe, but Columbia University TeenScreen claims that 20% of adolescents from 13 – 18 suffer from mental illness severe enough that it impairs their daily functions.

It’s frightening to think that out of a class of 23 students 4-5 are impacted to this degree!

Far Too Many Students Go Untreated

As if this isn’t worrisome enough, nearly 2/3rds of these individuals aren’t treated at all!  So, as you can see this isn’t a topic we can afford to ignore. 

If you think we can continue on like this, I am here to tell you the consequences will be grave. 

Students can’t and won’t succeed if they are suffering from serious mental health issues. Here’s a list of ways poor mental health can negatively impact academic achievement: 

  1. Poor Attendance
  2. Difficulty with Academic Work and Socialization
  3. Inability to Concentrate
  4. Failure to Achieve Academically or Complete Grades
  5. Failure to Graduate or go on to Higher Education

So as you can see there really is no way to get through school with flying colors under these circumstances. It’s just not possible. 

"STAT surveyed dozens of universities about their mental health services. From major public institutions to small elite colleges, a striking pattern emerged: Students often have to wait weeks just for an initial intake exam to review their symptoms. The wait to see a psychiatrist who can prescribe or adjust medication — often a part-time employee — may be longer still."

StateNews.com, Colleges Can't Meet Soaring Student Needs for Mental Health Care 

How Can We Continue to Ignore the Numbers? 


So let’s dig a little deeper into this issue.

A staggering 83% of students with mental health issues scored below the control group in the core subjects. There is no way anyone can ignore the link between mental health and academic achievement, when it’s so clearly underscored.

Nelson, R. et al. (2004). Academic achievement of K-12 students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Exceptional Children 71(1):59-73


The numbers just don’t lie. This study illustrates just how important a student’s state of mind is to his or her overall academic achievement. From the perspective of a parent, these findings seem obvious but this might not be so clear for educators. In a world where teachers are overburdened by lack of resources and untenable numbers of students, you can see how people might get overlooked. 

…but how can a child or teen succeed in school, if they have to combat anxiety, depression or psychosis? There is absolutely no way they will achieve excellent results with pressing issues such as this. 

In a nutshell – a happy and healthy student is a successful student. 

ANd there's more....

As if this isn’t proof enough of the connection between mental health and academic achievement, check this out! 

In 2008 a study uncovered that only 32% students with serious mental went on to get further education.

United States Government Accountability Office. (June 2008). Young Adults with Serious Mental Illness; Report to Congressional Requesters GAO Report Number GAO-08-678. Washington, D.C.


Ouch! If this doesn’t underscore the importance of the issues we are dealing with I’m not sure what will. Just over 1/3 of students with poor mental health pursue further education. This means we are missing out on a huge group of sensitive and creative people contributing to society.  

There Are Red Flags & We Are Missing Them: Mental Health & Academics 

When mental illness goes untreated, the consequences can be devastating. A report issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development stated nearly half of all homeless adults suffer from both mental illness and substance abuse. The Center for Disease Control reports suicide was the 10th leading cause of death for all ages in 2013 and the third leading cause of death among young teens. More than 90 percent of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition. 

The Tribune, San Luis Obispo, How to Spot Early Warning Signs of Mental Illness – and Offer Help

Yes, there are red flags and yes we are missing them. With numbers like these, we can’t afford to overlook how interdependent mental health and academic achievement really are.

Communities all over the US have to face this problem as the numbers continue to rise.

The first step is for educators, parents and support networks to learn how to recognize the signs. I guess at the end of the day it’s all about education and a little bit of information goes a long way! 

If we familiarize communities with the red flags, more kids will get the help they need. 


Warning Signs That Your Child Needs A Helping Hand  

So what are the warning signs?

The first step in turning the tides is to educate yourself. The more information you have, the better equipped you are to confront a situation. 

Here’s a list of warning signs you should be on the lookout for if you suspect someone in your life is suffering from mental health issues. 

According to Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation some of the signs are as follows:

  • marked personality change over time,
  • confused thinking; strange or grandiose ideas,
  • prolonged severe feelings of depression or apathy,
  • feelings of extreme highs or lows,
  • heightened anxieties, fears, anger or suspicion; blaming others,
  • social withdrawal, diminished friendliness, increased self-centeredness,
  • denial of obvious problems and a strong resistance to offers of help,
  • dramatic, persistent changes in eating or sleeping habits,
  • substance abuse,
  • thinking or talking about suicide.

Please Note: Mental illness isn’t usually connected to ONE of these symptoms or a singular event. Typically, the symptoms occur over several weeks or become a pattern of behavior.

...But I have GREAT News, Despite These Bleak Figures


Although these symptoms clearly impact mental health and academic achievement, there’s some GREAT news. 

I bet you’re a little perplexed though. How can confused thinking, an inability to concentrate and pervasive anxiety be anything but bad news?  There’s simply no way for a student to reach his or her goals if they feel like this! 

Well, these thoughts are right…and WRONG. 

…and I promise there are solutions! 

Research and my hands-on experience show that mental health and academic achievement improve exponentially with early detection and intervention.

It is, however, imperative that we address the needs of students as soon as possible to achieve optimal success.

Mental health issues in schools are far too prevalent. That being said, you will be happy to hear that we achieve amazing things at Fraley & Associates.

Because your brain is always changing, learning a few simple tools can help you take charge. Enabling students to address stress levels and identify emotional issues in a nurturing environment. 

I am excited to report that clients suffering from undiagnosed ADHD, ADD or anxiety are able to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles with some assistance. 

At Fraley & Associates, we use therapy, teach mindfulness, reevaluate your diet and exercise habits and encourage you to reach for the stars. It really is possible to change your path.  We see it time and time again. 

Give us a ring today. We can help! 

Dr. Lynn Fraley Founder Fraley & Associates (1)

Telephone: 509-710-8171

Fax: 208-247-9247

Fraley & Associates Counseling

Spokane Office: 
703 W. 7th Avenue Spokane, WA 

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504 Main, Suite 422
Lewiston, ID 83501

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Moscow ID 83843

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